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Afghan interpreters who served with British army should be allowed to stay in UK, says defence secretary

Translators in 'limbo' and let down by Home Office's 'shameful' rules, they say

Harriet Agerholm
Thursday 03 May 2018 19:02 BST
A US soldier walks with an Afghan interpreter before a mission
A US soldier walks with an Afghan interpreter before a mission (Reuters)

Afghan interpreters who served alongside British troops fighting the Taliban should be allowed to stay in the UK, the defence secretary has said, after it emerged they could be deported.

More than 150 interpreters who served on the front line in Helmand Province were granted sanctuary in the UK in 2012 under a five-year visa set to expire next year.

They wrote to the home secretary this week saying they had been left in “limbo” and had been let down by the Home Office’s “shameful” rules. Each has been told they need to pay £2,389 if they wish to be granted the indefinite right to remain in the UK.

But on Thursday the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, told the BBC the Home Office should waive the fees.

“These are people who have served alongside our armed forces and they have done so much ... so we have made it absolutely clear they should be staying in this country," he said.

“We want to do everything we can do to make sure they are able to do that, and we have been in touch with the Home Office making that position clear, and I am quite confident the Home Office will be supporting us and making sure that happens as quickly as possible.”

Home Office sources told The Independent on Thursday afternoon the department was “considering” the measure. An official statement was pending.

The interpreters were allowed into the UK under a five-year relocation scheme and once it expires they will need to apply for indefinite leave which would incur the fee.

“We took great risk because we believed in the integrity of the British Army, only to be let down by politicians who see us as [a] number and not as people who have sacrificed more for this country than many of its citizens,” the letter says.

Signatories said the fee of more than £2000 was “so great it is unaffordable for many”.

The letter also details how interpreters whose children were born in the UK were facing problems trying obtain documentation for them.

Mr Williamson said British troops have worked “hand in glove” with the brave translators and said he knows “everyone across government will be working with us to get this matter resolved as swiftly as possible”.

He said he would be “amazed” if they were kicked out of Britain, stating they “have every right to be here”.

“We have a personal duty to do the right thing by them and I know that is something that is felt right across government,” he added.

Mr Williamson's statements come after the threatened deportation of Hafizzulah Husseinkhel, a 26-year-old Afghan interpreter who was sent to a detention centre last December.

He was eventually released after the Home Office failed to contest a bail application lodged by his barrister.

PA contributed to this report

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